Trees might be leafing out by the time most of us get to decide whether to roll up a sleeve and have a needle pierce our skin and deliver a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
For some time the vaccines, the first batches of which arrived in Oregon last week, will be given, and for good reason, to health care workers, residents in long-term care facilities and others who are at higher risk for being infected with the virus.
Naturally, we want to first protect those for whom COVID-19 poses by far the most significant health risk.
For those of us who are younger than 60, that risk is exceedingly low. According to the Oregon Health Authority, of the 1,161 people whose deaths are attributed to COVID-19, just 9.2% were younger than 60 (and 3% were younger than 50).
Nonetheless, it’s still vital that younger people also are inoculated against the virus as soon as possible. Although members of that younger-than-60 group account for a small percentage of Oregon’s COVID-19 deaths, they make up 84% of the state’s approximately 96,000 cases. That’s a lot of people who could potential infect those who are more vulnerable.
The more people who are immunized, the more effective the vaccines will be.
A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, asking Americans if they plan to “definitely or probably” take a COVID-19 vaccine, showed a promising trend. The survey results, released on Dec. 15, found that 71% of respondents will definitely or probably be inoculated. That’s up from 63% in a September survey.
But it’s still troubling that nearly one-third of respondents aren’t eager, if not outright ecstatic, that they’ll have a chance to protect themselves, and potentially their family, friends and neighbors, from this virus.
Troubling, and not a little vexing.
The record of vaccines is so voluminous, a history of saving millions of lives and sparing many millions of others from the debilitating effects of bacterial and viral diseases that we were for so long powerless against, that it’s passing strange that skepticism persists to the extent it does.
COVID-19 vaccines stand out, of course, because they were made so quickly. But that’s not because safety standards were relaxed or testing protocols slighted.
Rather, the rapidity of these achievements reflects the immense abilities of brilliant scientists when they devote themselves wholeheartedly to one task and have robust support from the Trump administration.
Considering that earlier generations of experts conquered polio and measles and smallpox and other microscopic scourges, we ought not be surprised that, roused into action by COVID-19, the scientific community has pulled off another monumental victory.
Skepticism, of course, is not limited to the vaccine. There is widespread disbelief about the virus itself, and in particular about how dangerous it is.
But even those who discount the death toll can’t ignore that the virus has had terrible effects on our communities, socially and economically.
The fastest and most effective way to end restrictions, to reach that light at the end of the tunnel or get back to normal, to cite just two of the annoying and cloying clichés that have infested our national conversation, is to administer these wonderful vaccines as widely and rapidly as possible.
We have been given a collective gift.
We just have to unwrap it.